(A Journey of a Leap of Faith)
Somehow the whole room gives off a red glow. I am not entirely sure how this is occurring just as I am also not entirely sure this call-back audition isn’t going to be conducted in the foyer of an old tenement house. The ornate and curved staircase keeps bumping against my purse as I jostle with the other actors while trying to manage my jacket, water bottle and flip though the script to hastily read through the sides before my name is called.
It’s early December 2007 and I am at the third and final callback for a show whose name I don’t remember (for those who are unfamiliar with the world of acting, there is the audition which if you make it successfully through you are asked to come to the ‘callback’ where they have narrowed the list of actors down, if you make it through that round you are then asked to the final callback- the event where your fate of being cast or not is decided).
I had left my temp (meaning paid by the hour) job early to make it down here. For the previous auditions, I had braved the poorly running subway on an early Saturday morning and missed 2 hours of work thus impacting my scant take home pay.
At the time of the final callback, I still wasn’t clear on just what the show was about as I had not yet been shown the script. It had been described to me as “a dysfunctional comedy about the holidays”. Oh, and they were curious if I would be willing to appear in a bikini to sing “Joy to the World”. Hmmm.
So here I was at the final callback with the script finally in hand. And you know what I did after I read it?
I stood for a second taking in what I had just read and mulling it over. An orgy between the Christians and the Jews is what the director had referred to as a “show stopping number”. My parents would want to drive down to see me in the show, I would have to take more time off of work for this unpaid part and it was just straight up bad writing. Yea, no. I turned around and placed the script quietly on the stairs behind me and left.
That was one of my last auditions.
Since moving to Oklahoma City to pursue anti-human trafficking work, I have been asked several times if I have auditioned out here and when I say “No”, they ask why. I have had a really hard time concretely answering that question.
So I decided to make myself answer it.
Sometimes you make a choice in life and at that moment it may not seem like such a major one but looking back you see it changed the trajectory of your life. While on a Skype call with an old friend (met in my freshman year of acting class), he talked of how his hate for living in the dorms freshman year prompted him to accept a full-time job which allowed him to move out to an apartment for the rest of college. That job also took away time he may have had for auditioning. He excelled at his job, working his way up and up and eventually to a new company with a better title and a better paycheck. At the time, following this career momentum seemed like the rational choice to make and he doesn’t regret it but did he pursue his dream of being an actor the way he thought he would when he first arrived in NYC? No. What did he give up? But what did he gain?
Staring at my friends face through my computer screen as we talked on Skype, I suddenly realized there is a visceral reason why:
I am afraid of acting again and feeling pulled towards something that should stay shut.
For so long, and often at a high price, I pursued acting as my career and I am not sure if I know how to do it as a hobby. I have years of training under my belt and want to use it. I had loved acting but it didn’t love me back. Opening that can of worms seemed oddly scary to me.
I always say New York City made who I am and taught me what I am made of. While this is true, what brought me to NYC was my desire to be an actor. Being an actor is responsible for the trajectory of my life that took me right here to this place- living in Oklahoma City working in the social services world and completely committed to abolishing human trafficking. A place I firmly believe is the right location and the right cause for me.
What if that was acting’s purpose in my life, to bring me right here? Would making acting the focus reignite those old dreams and wishes and turn my focus away from what I believe is my calling?
As it often happens once you identify or face down a ‘fear’, you realize you are in control of it and the fear is not controlling you. I realized I should be more open to incorporating that love into my current world. It’s a part of me, shaped the story of my life and just maybe (especially with my new partnership with the founder of End Sex Trafficking Day) there are ways to have both without sacrificing your purpose and it can, in fact, enhance it.
When I was in Thailand the children, unable to pronounce my name, nicknamed me “Dara”. Dara is the Thai word for actor. The children nicknamed me this without knowing I had ever been an actor. I have a small tattoo of my Thai name to remind me of my life in NYC and of my leap of faith to Thailand- one chapter leading to the other.